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Strong winds cause high waves, flight delays

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Strong winds caused damage and high waves up to 25 feet overnight.

The wind is getting calmer in the Chicago area this morning, but it caused plenty of problems for some Chicago boat owners.

The high waves broke the lines of more than 20 boats in Monroe Harbor, sending them crashing into the wall near the Shedd Aquarium. A couple of boats sank.

To the north at Dusable Harbor, a section of a floating dock broke while several boats were still attached to it. At Diversey Harbor, another floating dock cracked from the strong waves. And at Montrose Harbor, one a boat broke free and drifted into some neighboring boats. Park district officials say this is the worst damage to the harbors since 1985.

The seawall at the lakefront by the museum campus is littered with pieces of boats. Other boats are overturned. Those waves coupled with 60 mph wind gusts are to blame.

The city's police marine unit scrambled to help contain the 15-20 boats that broke away from the docks early Thursday morning.

Bob Vanucci pulled his out of the water weeks ago, but he showed up to museum campus to check his friends' boats.

"I am in a boat group. We have members in this harbor, and I want to see if the boats are OK. Unfortunately, a couple of members have suffered losses today," he said.

The waves were so big that people stopped to take pictures Wednesday night. Near Fullerton, the waves washed over the bike path and at times reached the strip of parkland separating it from Lake Shore Drive.

"I got off work an hour ago and heard about the weather and figured we would come and check it out a little bit. It's pretty amazing. You don't get to see this too often," said one man.

While the scenes may have been amazing, the conditions were dangerous because of the risk of being swept out into the lake. Police closed off the bike path from Fullerton to Grand.

At Temple Shalom in East Lakeview, the wind left a small structure outside in splinters.

There is a flood warning near the lake that goes until 4 p.m. in the city and in Indiana until 9 p.m.

The rough weather caused problems at the airports as well. At O'Hare International Airport, there were delays of 90 minutes or more. Seventeen flights were canceled. At Midway, there were no cancellations, but delays were as long as two hours.

The strong winds forced officials at Northwestern University to cancel a soccer game Wednesday evening. A campus alert was issued encouraging students and staff to stay away from the lakefront.

Wind snapped several light poles at Wilton and Grace in Chicago, one of which landed on a car. At Schiller and Lake Shore, a fallen light pole blocked traffic overnight.

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